Rogério Andrade Barbosa (Brazil)

Speaking Time and Room No.: 2006-9-22 16:00-18:00 Room I

Speaker: Rogério Andrade Barbosa (Brazil)




It’s always a pleasure to participate in another IBBY Congress and to meet writers and illustrators from different countries. It’s really a gif for me to be in China, land of my dreams. As I said in South Africa two years ago, when I was a child, I used to travel through the pages of many books to distant lands. For me, books were like flying rugs that took me far away, into space, to very, very distant islands and continents. Today, one of my dreams has come true. I’m in China.

But, first, let me tell you a little bit about my big and sunny country: Brazil.

When the first Europeans ships arrived in my country, five hundred centuries ago, they were met by many different indigenous people, millions of them. As the navigators thought that they had arrived in India, they called them INDIANS! And soon, in just a few years time, the natives had been almost exterminated.

The country was huge and the Portuguese, our first colonizers, felt that they needed many arms to work on the rich land. So, they purchased and brought, from Africa, around four millions of black people to work as slaves.

Nowadays, Brazil is a multicultural society and many of our books for children and young people, like mirrors, reflects the cultural mixture of indigenous tales, African oral traditions and European fairy-tales.

In the past two centuries, Brazil has received immigrants from several parts of the world. But from China only very few immigrants have come. So, it’s hard to find books with tales about China.

Well, because the IBBY Congress in China, I started to study the Chinese presence in brazilians books. And I able to find only a few translations. Suddenly, I remebemred a Chinese tale that was lost in my memory. It was about a Chinese poor boy who always fell asleep when he was studying his school lessons. One night, he decided to tie his pigtail to a nail on the wall. In that way he would be able to study till late because of the pain in his neck .

It was difficult to find this tale, but after a lot of research I found it in the library of the Brazilian National Foundation of Books for Children and Young People. It was really an old tale in a book without any pictures, but it has left a very strong image on my mind for ever.

Later, during the course of my research, I read that, one hundred years ago, Chinese laborers had been brought to Brazil in order to work in the construction of a railroad that was unfinished in the heart of the Amazon jungle. So, I took a long trip by plane to the faraway northen State of Rondonia. In the capital city, Porto Velho, I interviewed some retired workers and took a small boat to see the abandoned rails in the middle of the impenetrable jungle. But I didn’t find any trace of the Chinese workers, only faded old photographs. All the Chinese that had not died because of yellow fever or hard labor had, perhaps, returned to China.

My last book is titled “Shaozu’s Dream”. The idea came to me when I read a Taoist book written by Chuang Tzu that says: “when someone dreams he doesn’t know that he’s dreaming”. So, my book is about a smart Chinese boy who tries to discover what happened to an old relative of his who had worked, one hundred years before, in the lost railroad in the middle of the Amazonian jungle.

One night, as in the Chuang Tzu poem, in a dream, the boy flies like a butterfly.

Dreams, according to the Eskimos, who live in the frozen lands of Greenland, have magical powers. They say that people who dream can hear and see many important things. During sleep people can live a completely different life from real life.

Marthin Luther King had a dream that one day all children would live in a world of freedom and justice. And, in a famous song, John Lennon said that he, too, was a dreamer.

Writers and illustrators are also dreamers. We believe that our young readers can change the world. We dream of a world without children-soldiers, without children-slaves, without the prostitution of children and without children getting killed by bombs.

Our books are the “space” where we talk about “freedom”. So, I must confess that I’m a dreamer too. Thank you.


Rogério Andrade Barbosa (Brazil)

30th IBBY World Congress – China, 2006.